This is the grand daddy of all the other theories I am going to cover. As with all the other theories I am currently extrapolating, Spiral Theory begins with a main line from left to right. Now that is the main line of story, and within this line are the common three acts of a traditional three act structure. That’s the rudimentary stuff.
Where the fun begins, are the spirals. There are two spirals, with each of them serving a different function. I presume I am going to talk further about characters and emotions and feelings and motivation and all that soon, but for now let’s make this real simple. Like I said, we need only count two spirals, and that straight story line.
These two spirals, in order of importance, are the emotional spiral, or inward/inner spiral, which stems from within the main storyline, and the outward spiral, which stems from outside the main storyline, but as you will see with all the other theories I am going to cover, they all merge into the main story at some point.
So let’s begin with the emotional spiral. Why I think this spiral is the primary spiral is because great stories are not just about plot and MacGuffins and Tesseracts and Infinity Stones…. well that’s only part of the thing. Great stories are about emotion, and as the great Bruce Lee once said, “Emotional Content.”
What movie sticks with you more this year? Transformers: Age of Extinction, or Guardians of the Galaxy? If you are not an automaton, and are made of things like bone and brain and heart, I bet most of you would choose the latter.
Why? You might ask. Simple, look back to what Bruce Lee said. Emotional content. We care, even cry about Rocket, Peter, Drax, Gamorra and Groot. We had emotional epiphanies when Drax stroked Rocket’s back when he cried over Groot, and when Peter had a vision of his mother in the end.
I don’t give a fuck about robots screaming each other’s names for 3 hours straight, though it was fun the first time around. Transformers movies are good fun, but Guardians lasts and sticks with you, because we all cared about the characters.
The emotional spiral I have pinpointed within the main storyline. This is vital because the emotion will drive the hero/protagonist to do the things he will do later. From that main pinpoint is where the emotional spiral begins, it reverberates and spreads its waves into the main story, as you can see in the illustration.
Case in point: When Peter’s mom dies in the beginning, when he can’t accept it, that’s when the emotional spiral begins. It affects his behavior as an adult, it affects his acceptance of his destiny and his acceptance of death in the finale.
I also want to point out another story, a perennial favorite of mine, but if you take your time you will find you will also be able to pinpoint the emotional spiral to almost any (good) story.
Luke Skywalker’s emotional spiral, from Star Wars: A New Hope, begins with his desire to leave the confines of his boring old moisture farm, his yearning further highlighted by his staring at the twin sunset of his home planet Tatooine, kicking the sand in frustration, but his emotions, his need to go into the great unknown of the outside world, lead back into the main plot and ultimately to the outward spiral, the larger universe at play.
In the drawing I have purposely placed the outward spiral outside the confines of the main storyline because apart from the main story, there is a universe of backstory and things larger than what the hero/protagonist knows, things like the Force, the Empire, The Death Star.
Hence, the outward spiral, as opposed to the inward spiral, starts from outside the main plot, and spirals its way into the main story, intersecting with the hero’s emotional inward spiral. The collision of these two spirals are what creates conflict, tension, high stakes and drama.
All that other stuff about costumes, creatures, cosmic mumbo-jumbo? That’s just window dressing, baby.
Come back again next time, same blog time, same blog channel, for further explanations of my other theories.
Until then, I hope you all enjoyed reading this, and hope this stuff proves useful.